Archive for the Your Sister’s Record Rack Category

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Chicago

Posted in Lost Classics!, Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , , , on June 26, 2011 by 30daysout

Mom and Dad dropped the bomb last night at the dinner table: my sister isn’t coming back to live at home. Well, I hope she does well wherever she is. I kind of miss her already – even if I can’t sneak into her room and sample her record albums.

Ah, then: let’s spin a couple albums from the group Chicago. At first they were Chicago Transit Authority but had to shorten their name when the real CTA threatened to sue. Why didn’t the city of Chicago complain?

Guess it’s a good thing they didn’t – Chicago went on to be one of the most successful pop and rock groups of all time. Their albums should be extremely familiar to most people; so today let’s do something different and examine Chicago’s experimental side,  by listening to a couple of suites from their early albums.

Perhaps influenced by the Beatles,  Beach Boys and other progressive acts of the era, the band offered on its second album (Chicago, otherwise known as Chicago II, from 1970) a “suite” of songs strung together as the album’s centerpiece. Written entirely by trombonist-arranger James Pankow, the suite was one of three on the double LP but it got the most attention because it spawned the band’s first big hit singles.

“Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” was actually the first foray into these multi-part songs for Chicago. Inspired by classical music suites, Pankow told the story of a man trying to regain a long-lost love. The suite, just shy of 13 minutes long,  is made up of seven tracks, three of which are instrumentals. It gets right out of the chute with “Make Me Smile,” a peppy tune with catchy horn parts. But the lyrics are a bummer: this guy mopes around parks while kids play and laugh, he misses his true love. This part features a characteristic guitar solo from Terry Kath laid over a tasty bed of horns – actually Chicago’s trademark. Kath also sang the lead vocals throughout the ballet.

The song finally switches gears into “So Much To Say, So Much To Give,” then moves into two instrumentals – the first of which, “Anxiety’s Moment,” will give you Beatles flashbacks with its piano plunks. After “West Virginia Fantasies,” the second instrumental, the ballet really slows it down for the piano ballad “Colour My World,” which you may have heard about 1,000,000 times if you were around in the early 1970s. This one kind of sticks out because it doesn’t flow with the rest of the piece, almost as if they were inviting someone to lift the song straight out. Pankow remembers writing this part first, on the road in a Holiday Inn, and Walt Paradizer added flute parts on the spot.

One more instrumental interlude, then “Now More Than Ever” wraps up the song cycle by revisiting “Make Me Smile.” Chicago’s record label at the time, Columbia, decided to lift “Colour My World” as a single, but as a B-side: an amended “Make Me Smile,” with the “Now More Than Ever” closing, was the A-side. Pankow remembers driving in Santa Monica one day when he heard “Make Me Smile” on the radio. “I realized, hey, we have a hit single,” he said. It was Chicago’s first Top 10 single. The second hit single off Chicago was Robert Lamm’s driving “25 or 6 to 4″ – “Colour My World” wouldn’t have its time in the Top 10 until 1971, when it was re-released along with “Beginnings,” from the band’s first album.

MP3: “Ballet For A Girl in Buchannon”

MP3: “Make Me Smile” (single)

OK, just for laughs let’s cue up Side 2 of  Chicago’s next album, Chicago III, from 1971. With the hit singles, Chicago had lost its “underground” status and was a full-fledged pop band. But they wanted to get a little more funky and free on this one, and this double album (at this time Chicago had put out three double LPs in two years!) sported not one, not two, but three suites. Let’s listen to “Travel Suite,” which took up one whole side of an LP.

The new approach is evident with “Flight 602,” a country-ish ditty by Robert Lamm, which he also sings. Danny Seraphine contributes an instrumental next, “Motorboat to Mars,” then it’s back to Lamm with a rocker “Free,” sung by Kath. The suite then comes to a screeching halt with the experimental, moody “Free Country,” a long piano and flute instrumental that recalls “Colour My World” a bit but without vocals. The last two pieces, “At The Sunrise” and “Happy ‘Cause I’m Going Home,” are Lamm compositions which he sings in tandem with Peter Cetera. This vocal blend would become most evident on Chicago’s long run of hit singles in the 1970s and indeed, “Free” was a single lifted out of this suite.

Chicago III was another big hit for the band, and it had one other single, the middling “Lowdown,” by Cetera. The band would release a monster live album next – four LPs cut at Carnegie Hall – then Chicago V in 1972 would be the band’s first one-disc album and a huge platinum-selling monster. Kath would die in 1978 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Cetera would finally leave the band for a solo career in 1985. Chicago soldiers on today, with Lamm, Pankow, Paradizer and Lee Loughnane as the remaining founding members.

MP3: “Travel Suite”

MP3: “Lowdown”

Chicago official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Ten Years After

Posted in Lost Classics!, Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , , on April 28, 2011 by 30daysout

Spent a few days without a working computer … it was a virus and thankfully not one of those fearful tornadoes. Anyway, we dip back into our own personal collection of “hippie” records and pull out this masterpiece, A Space In Time, the 1971 LP from Ten Years After.

We’ve covered this band once before, when we reviewed Cricklewood Green from 1970. There we posed the theory that by the turn of the decade Alvin Lee and company were looking ahead to take the music forward, along with similarly minded visionaries like Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie and the Rolling Stones. A Space In Time reflects that vision – it’s a combination of the usual blues-rock workouts that Ten Years After was known for (“I’m Going Home” from Woodstock, for example) and acoustic, melodic songs side by side.

The payoff was, of course, “I’d Love To Change The World,” which was actually a hit for TYA.  I remember the first time I heard it on the radio, I thought it was Traffic. Pleasantly surprised, though, I learned it was an Alvin Lee composition like the rest of the album’s 10 tunes – except for the closing “Uncle Jam” which is credited to the entire band.

“One Of These Days,” which opens the LP, is a slow builder that is more typical of Ten Years After’s blues rock style. It’s a showcase for Alvin Lee’s brilliant guitar work, and he even blows some mean harmonica on this one. I’m a sucker for these late ’60s-early ’70s things with guitar, organ fills and harmonica – and it’s a lot more tasteful than, say, Humble Pie of the same era.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Nancy Sinatra

Posted in Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , on April 19, 2011 by 30daysout

Saturday was Record Store Day – I hope you got what you were looking for. Part of the fun, of course, to get what you aren’t looking for … in my case, along with all the new and exclusive vinyl I snapped up a gently used copy of Sugar, the 1967 LP by Nancy Sinatra.

Nancy is, of course, the daughter of you-know-who and she exploded onto the music scene in 1966 with the smash hit “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.” That tune was written and produced by Lee Hazlewood, who would be Nancy’s svengali throughout her peak period. In those days pop (or, more accurately, non-rock) singers put out records as though they came off an assembly line; often an album from a singer like this would consist of one or two hits and a bucketload of filler with little or nothing to tie the songs together.

Hazlewood, to his credit, produced not only hit singles but albums for Nancy Sinatra, so she had a little in common with the popular rock artists of the era. Of course, the “concept” behind Sugar was lame – the liner notes say the album contains “sweet, soulful serenades from the old timey years” and that meant a lot of old Depression-era tunes with Hollywood orchestration. Lame, right? Well, consider “When I’m 64” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and “Honey Pie” from the Beatles’ White Album are cut from the same cloth – so there may have been a bit of a mini-nostalgia craze for that era during the mid-1960s.

“Hard Hearted Hannah,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Let’s Fall In Love” are so familiar they’re corny. “My Buddy” slows it down with a cornet straight out of Little Rascals feature, and “Limehouse Blues” offers a bit of phony Orientalism. Things pick up considerably, though, with the two originals Hazlewood penned for this album: “Coastin'” is a lazy lope with a bit of a summer vibe, but the big payoff comes with “Sugar Town,” a song in same vein that was a big hit. Actually, “Sugar Town” pre-existed before the Sugar album – it was a Top Five smash in late 1966 (with the B-side “Summer Wine,” a duet with Hazlewood that was re-released to also become a hit).

True to the one-or-two-hits-and-the-rest-filler standard, Sugar had no other big hits. Not to say that Nancy didn’t reach the top of the charts again in 1967 – her second No. 1 hit came that year, in the form of “Somethin’ Stupid,” a duet with her father and the only father-daughter song to ever top the U.S. pop charts. Sugar was a hit album but Sinatra’s followup, an album of country songs, wouldn’t do as well.

Sugar was also notable for its risque (at the time) cover photo of Nancy Sinatra in a bikini, which caused the LP to be banned in some cities. Wow – the very next year John Lennon and Yoko Ono would show the world how to do a truly controversial album cover, with their fully nude photo on Two Virgins.

Nancy Sinatra continues to perform today, occasionally recording a new song. She currently appears on “To Ardent,” from Black Devil Disco Club (free download here). Her recordings continue to appear in movie soundtracks and TV commercials, all recalling that glittery late-1960s era.

MP3: “Sweet Georgia Brown”

MP3: “Let’s Fall In Love”

MP3: “Sugar Town”

MP3: “My Buddy”

Bonus MP3: “Summer Wine” w/Lee Hazlewood

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Ron Wood & Ronnie Lane

Posted in Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , , , , on April 8, 2011 by 30daysout

My big sister’s bedroom is still locked tight – you think she’s on to me? Well, since we can’t riffle through her record collection I might as well share an LP from mine. Today we’re spinning Mahoney’s Last Stand, a 1976 soundtrack album by Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane, both members of the Faces.

The soundtrack music – mostly instrumentals – was recorded for the 1972 Canadian movie Mahoney’s Estate, which starred Sam Waterston and Maud Adams. The soundtrack was originally supposed to be released in North America but some kind of legal hassles delayed the movie for almost two years and the soundtrack for more than three years. So the album was finally released about a year after the Faces broke up.

Lane was of course the Faces’ bass player and Wood the guitar player. And Mahoney’s Last Stand features an all-star cast of sidemen including Faces bandmates Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, Pete Townshend on guitar, Ric Grech (Blind Faith) and Benny Gallagher (Gallagher and Lyle) on bass, Ian Stewart (Rolling Stones) on keyboards, Bobby Keys and Jim Price on horns, Mickey Waller (Rod Stewart) on drums and producer Glyn Johns on backing vocals!

If you like the Faces’ bloozy, boozy-woozy good-time music, you’ll like the numbers here. “Car Radio” puts the pedal to the metal, and “Tonight’s Number” (with Jones, McLagan and Townshend) kicks out like Rod Stewart is going to jump out of the shadows and start wailin’ at any moment. But who needs him: Wood and Lane ably share vocals on the steppin’ “Chicken Wired,” and Wood’s Dylanesque voice is perfect for “‘Mona’ The Blues.” And “Just For A Moment,” an unmistakably Lane contribution, is supplied in two doses: an instrumental and a version with Lane’s sweet vocals.

While the album was being delayed due the legal wrangles, Lane re-cut “Chicken Wired” for his first solo LP, and he often played the song in his live appearances. In 1998 the Mahoney’s Last Stand soundtrack emerged on CD with a bunch of bonus tracks – some rejects from the original recording and a couple of tunes that were early versions of songs that would eventually appear on Ooh La La, the final Faces studio album (1973).

Wood would of course join the Rolling Stones in 1975, and Lane would quit Faces shortly after Ooh La La. He had some brilliant moments after that before succumbing to complications from multiple sclerosis in 1997. Ian McLagan, now a proud resident of Austin and the genius behind the World’s Greatest Free Happy Hour, often pays tribute to his dear friend Ronnie Lane. It’s fitting, because “Plonk” was a genius.

MP3: “Car Radio”

MP3: “Tonight’s Number”

MP3: “Just For A Moment”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Posted in Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by 30daysout

My sister actually locked her bedroom door this morning – I’m shut out of her awesome record collection! But never fear, I’ll pull out one of mine – hmmm, let’s go for the good stuff today. And so we have the soundtrack for Freebird: The Movie, by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Freebird: The Movie is ostensibly a documentary film, released in 1996, but it’s really a concert movie featuring Skynyrd’s vintage three-guitar attack, filmed during various concerts in 1976 and 1977. Most of the footage comes from a 1976 performance in Knebworth, England in ’76 and features most of the original lineup with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, the three stinging guitars of Steve Gaines, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, and the keyboard work of Billy Powell. Somewhere along the line Ed King left the band and was replaced by Steve Gaines – I haven’t seen the movie, but apparently only Gaines is on the soundtrack although King is in the movie.

So let’s slap on the soundtrack LP – It kicks off with some recordings from England in 1976, “Workin’ For MCA,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” You hear immediately this recording is a bit rougher and less polished than the classic live Skynyrd album One More From The Road (1976 ). But I like the gritty sound of this one; it sounds more like a concert recording to me, although I think engineers boosted the audience sound in places.

About seven songs in, we switch to a performance from July 1977, where Skynyrd performs “What’s Your Name” and “That Smell,” and between the two Van Zant mentions the new album they’re from, “comin’ out around September.” Then we go back to England and 1976, with awesome performances of “Gimme Three Steps” and “Call Me The Breeze” before the band winds it up for a rousing version of the Jimmie Rodgers classic, “T For Texas (Blue Yodel No. 1).” The boys rock that Rodgers tune, and there’s some nifty guitar work here … and it’s longer than the version of One More From The Road!

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Sugarloaf

Posted in Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , on April 5, 2011 by 30daysout

Like everyone else, my big sister is worried about the ecology. Whenever she sees that TV commercial about the Indian brave crying over people littering and stuff, she gets all teary eyed herself. She digs it when rock stars connect with ecological statements as well, like Marvin Gaye (“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”) and Joni Mitchell (“Big Yellow Taxi”). We both dug the Beach Boys’ sort-of ecological statement, and we both got off to today’s album, Spaceship Earth by Sugarloaf, from 1971.

Sugarloaf came out of Colorado about 1970, when they hit the Top 5 of the pop charts with the single “Green Eyed Lady.” Jerry Corbetta, the band’s singer/keyboardist/songwriter, was the founder and leader of Sugarloaf. The band also included drummer Bob MacVitte, lead guitarist Bob Webber, bass player Bob Raymond and yes, Bob Yeazel on guitar. Yeazel joined the group right after the first album with the hit, and he wrote or co-wrote many of the tunes of Spaceship Earth.

So, the time was right to do one of those “save the earth” albums, to support (and capitalize on) the ecology social movement that grew out of nuclear and pollution anxieties in the late 1960s. The title song kicks off the album and it’s an semi-psychedelic instrumenta, designed to show off the band’s musical chops and prog-rock leanings. Corbetta’s playing on organ anchors this track but Webber’s guitar work shines here.

“Hot Water,” which opens with a hot riff from Webber, encroaches on Grand Funk Railroad’s heavy territory. “I Don’t Need You Baby” is a bit of jazz rock to slow the proceedings down a bit – it isn’t a song about the environment, rather it’s a message to a lover: “We need some time apart to keep our heads together.” Corbetta and Webber (or maybe it’s Yeazel) shine on this one, as it leaves a lot of room for playing between the verses.

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